What Is Yale Known For?

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Yale is a private Ivy League university in New Haven, Connecticut. The prestigious university is ranked No. 5 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. For the 2022-2023 freshman class, Yale had its lowest acceptance rate yet: 4.46%.

It’s best known for its strong reputation, exceptional undergraduate teaching, and excellent music and drama programs.

But if you’re interested in becoming a Yale Bulldog, you probably want to know more than just the basics. In this guide, we’ll share all kinds of information about what makes Yale unique, including the campus, student body, curriculum, dorm life, financial aid, and much more.

Yale’s Campus

Founded in 1701, Yale has a historic campus located 90 minutes away from New York City in New Haven, Connecticut.

The tree-lined campus has been called “the most beautiful urban campus in America.” It’s home to numerous laboratory spaces, research libraries, and global art collections. In fact, Yale has over one million square feet of lab space and thirteen million books spread across 22 libraries. Campus is also known for the Yale Center for British Art, the Peabody Museum of Natural History, and the world-renowned Yale University Art Gallery.

There are twenty on-campus venues for student theater, music, and dance productions. The Yale Bulldogs play football in the Yale Bowl Stadium and are known for their intense rivalry with Harvard. And nature-loving students can enjoy the outdoors at the Yale Farm or the 1,500-acre Outdoor Education Center.

Just beyond Yale’s campus, New Haven has the benefits of a large city with a small-town New England charm. Yale’s website describes it as “large enough to be interesting, yet small enough to be friendly.” If you’re a pizza lover, good news: New Haven considers itself the pizza capital of the world.

Student Body

Yale enrolls 6,494 undergraduate students and 8,031 graduate and professional students. 22% of Yale students are international, representing 115 countries. The diverse student body represents a wide range of ethnic, religious, academic, and economic backgrounds, but they share a love of learning.

Students describe the Yale student body as “committed to learning and to each other.” They are passionate, driven, and dedicated, creating an enthusiastic atmosphere on campus. In addition to academics, most students are involved in numerous activities that fosters “the closely connected feel of campus.”

Many students are politically active or at least politically aware, and they typically volunteer or get involved with organizations that aim to make a difference in the world. Although Yale is described by its students as liberal leaning, there are several campus organizations for students with differing political views.


Yale fosters a spirit of inquiry, encouraging students to explore diverse academic interests and discover new passions. All undergraduates attend Yale College, which offers instruction in the liberal arts and sciences.

Yale’s most popular majors are Social Sciences, History, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics and Statistics. As we mentioned, Yale is also known for its stellar music and drama programs, which extend beyond the classroom with organizations like the Yale Dramatic Association and the Yale Whiffenpoofs, a famous a capella group. The university does not offer minors.

For students with interests outside of Yale’s standard departments and majors, the university has several unique options:

  •         The Special Divisional Major, for academic study outside other major programs (typically interdisciplinary).
  •         Multidisciplinary Academic Programs (MAPS) in interdisciplinary fields including Education Studies, Energy Studies, Global Health Studies, and Human Rights Studies.
  •         Five Year BA/BS and Master’s Programs in Public Health, Music, and Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Yale also has a popular summer study abroad program called the Yale Summer Session Programs Abroad, in which faculty lead programs on a variety of subjects for Yale credit. Students are encouraged to travel abroad for study, research, or work.

Unlike some other prestigious universities, Yale emphasizes undergraduate teaching and learning. All professors, including world-renowned experts like Nobel Prize winner Louise Glück, are required to teach at least one undergraduate class each year. The student-faculty ratio is 6:1, and 71% of Yale classes enroll fewer than 20 students.

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Dorm Life at Yale

All incoming freshmen are assigned to one of Yale’s fourteen residential colleges, and they remain affiliated with these colleges for all four years (and beyond). Residential colleges are designed to foster a warm, supportive community and give students “a sense of intimate social and intellectual connection.”

Most first-year students live in dorms on Old Campus that are affiliated with a specific residential college, but they have access to all facilities and resources associated with their colleges. Starting sophomore year, students live in their colleges.

Every residential college has an assigned Dean and a Head (senior faculty members), who live in the college and are responsible for 300 to 500 students each. This means that all students have access to personalized administrative attention.

Centered around a courtyard, each residential college has its own dining hall with a dedicated chef, late-night café, computer cluster, library, and music practice rooms. They also have a seminar room where a unique, one-time class is taught every semester. Students who live in the college help select the course being offered. Some residential colleges have unique features, like Berkeley College’s Woodshop or Morse College’s Fabric Arts Studio.

Within their colleges, students also participate in a wide range of opportunities and activities. The colleges compete each year for the Tyng Cup, an intramural championship trophy. To win the trophy, students compete in sports like basketball, badminton, soccer, table tennis, water polo, pickleball, spikeball, cross country, and more.

Extracurricular Activities

Yale has more than 400 student groups, including nearly 100 athletic teams, over 50 performance groups, and 60 cultural associations.

Because of all these groups, there are numerous student-produced shows every year, along with parties and events on and off campus. Students also regularly enjoy subsidized trips to Boston and New York City. About 10% of Yale students participate in Greek life, joining fraternities or sororities.

Yale is known for its academics more than its athletics, but the university has more than 30 men’s and women’s varsity teams that compete in the Ivy League Conferences. Varsity teams have won a total of 29 NCAA championships and are especially strong in golf and swimming. Students cheer on the Bulldogs adorned in blue and white, the Yale colors.

Yale also has 40 club sports and the Yale Intramural Program, which allows students to play one or more of 30 sports. On-campus recreational facilities are available for tennis, ice hockey, polo, sailing, and more.

Yale Traditions

With its 300-year history, it’s no surprise that Yale is also known for its many rich traditions.

Yale traditions include:

  •         Class Day: A commencement tradition started in the 1800s, Class Day involves a speech from a student-selected notable figure, awards, and speeches and a film reflecting on the graduating class’s four years at Yale. Students also celebrate longstanding traditions like the Class Ivy and the singing of “Bright College Years.”
  •         Holiday Dinner: All undergraduates attend a celebratory dinner on the last day of classes during the fall semester. Freshmen enjoy an extravagant feast called the Parade of Comestibles. As the name suggests, the feast is delivered by parade, with a live serenade. Upperclassmen dine together in their residential colleges.
  •         YSO Halloween Concert: At midnight on Halloween, the Yale Symphony Orchestra plays a student-arranged concert of classical, pop, and film music in Woolsey Hall. The concert accompanies a silent film created by YSO students. Each year, tickets sell out minutes after they become available.
  •         The Game: The annual Yale-Harvard football game is known as “The Game,” and it draws legions of students and alumni from both schools every year. Leading up to The Game, there’s a festive spirit and a wide variety of social activities and events.
  •         First Year Dance: The entire first-year class participates in the First Year Dance every January. With your permission, your suitemate’s will set you up with a date. You won’t learn your date’s identity until the night of the dance, through a creative scheme (such as being given a puzzle piece and instructed to find the person whose puzzle piece fits yours within a small crowd).
  •         Spring Fling: A daylong celebration with lots of music and food, Spring Fling takes place on Old Campus the day after spring-term classes end. Famous musical artists and several student band perform throughout the day.
  •         Handsome Dan: In 1889, Yale student Andrew B. Graves saw a bulldog sitting in front of a shop and purchased him from a blacksmith for $5. The bulldog, Handsome Dan, quickly became Yale’s mascot — and Yale became the first university in the U.S. to adopt an official mascot. Since then, a series of 19 bulldogs have occupied the role of Handsome Dan.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Yale tuition is $62,250. Additional charges include $18,450 for room and board, bringing the total per year to $80,700.

Although Yale is expensive, it’s ranked No. 1 in the nation for “Best Value” by U.S. News and World Report. That’s because Yale is also known for its excellent financial aid program (and for its superb return on investment).

Yale is need-blind, meaning students are admitted regardless of their ability to pay. The university then meets 100% of demonstrated financial need. Families with a household income under $75,000 pay nothing.

In 2019-2020, 56% of Yale students received scholarships or grants from the university, and the average need-based scholarship/grant was $53,245.

So, if you’re interested in Yale, don’t let the expense stop you from applying. If you’re admitted, the university will meet your financial need and ensure that you’re able to afford the exceptional college education Yale provides.


Of course, Yale is also known for its highly competitive admissions process.  We mentioned that Yale’s most recent acceptance rate was 4.46%, but it generally hovers around 6%. That means for every 100 students who apply, Yale usually accepts about 6 students. The other 94 students receive a rejection.

To get into Yale, you’ll need to demonstrat

e exceptional academic ability. The average student admitted to Yale has a GPA of 4.14. The average SAT score is 1515, and the average ACT score is 34.

However, Yale also looks for “those who would make the most of the extraordinary resources assembled here, those with a zest to stretch the limits of their talents, and those with an outstanding public motivation — in other words, applicants with a concern for something larger than themselves.” They seek leaders who will make significant contributions to Yale’s campus community, and they advise you to be yourself, pursue what you love, and tell the admissions committee about that.

You must shine academically to get into Yale, but the university recognizes that every student is more than a series of numbers. They want to get “a sense of the full human being” behind every application.  

Final Thoughts: What Is Yale Known For?

Yale is an academically prestigious university, but it’s also known for exemplary arts programs, a focus on undergraduate teaching, and its extensive financial aid program.

The university provides unique academic programs and emphasizes intellectual curiosity and discovery. It has a beautiful campus with an abundance of world-renowned resources and facilities. Students participate in hundreds of activities, dozens of sports, and a variety of popular traditions.

Yale is also known for its residential colleges, which give students a sense of community from the start of their Yale experience. Each residential college has its own activities, dining hall, exclusive seminars, and more.

Admission to Yale is one of the most competitive processes in the nation, but the admissions committee reviews applications holistically. If you’re academically talented, service-oriented, passionate, willing to work hard and stretch your limits, and a strong leader, then it’s worth applying to Yale.

If you’re accepted to Yale, you’ll attend a university that offers the best of the best in academics, arts, and campus life!

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